Are you a jaguar or a gazelle?

by Jennifer Stevenson

My coaches are awesome, and my team is full of really good skaters, unlike myself. They can geek out about every single aspect of skating. Anytime I want to worry about something new, I just ask.

moderation...what's that?

Today’s geek-out is about food. What do you eat before you practice? What do you eat the day before you compete in a meet? What do you eat an hour before you skate? What do you drink during practice? What’s the ratio of carbs to protein in your post-skate meal? Yeesh.

I’d always been on the see-food diet, until I saw the low-carb light and realized that for me, at least, there are certain foods I can’t eat if I want to compete. Or, for that matter, if I want to wear the same pair of  jeans for more than a year.

I was born with a jaguar metabolism. This, on the great scale of carb intake, puts me far at the meat-eating end of things. I can eat all the meat and fat I want. I should eat a few vegetables. What I do eat is protein fat, and fruit. Trying to break the rules, or bend them really hard. As usual.

Unlike your typical born runner with a gazelle metabolism, I can’t run all day on grains and veggies and fruit. But I learned from my geek buddies that I must have some carbs before and during my skate.

Wait, wait, I hear you say, whaddaya mean, jaguar versus gazelle?

There’s a simple test to determine where you stand on the gazelle-versus-jaguar sliding scale of metabolisms.

gazelle food

Your gazelle is a carb eater. Especially grains. Your gazelle can eat Ugly American Breakfast Number One: juice, grits, oatmeal, pancakes, waffles, biscuits and gravy, hash browns, toast, cinnamon bun, cornbread and honey … and run all day on that. If I ate that, I’d go to sleep, and wake up cranky, stupid, tired, and hungry an hour later. And fat. Oh, so fat.

Your jaguar on the other hand can run all day on Ugly American Breakfast Number Two: four-cheese omelet, ham, bacon, steak, chorizo, sausage patties, sausage links, and, if you can get them, kippers. Buttered. I can run all day on that. And I lose weight eating all that. But if a gazelle ate that stuff, she’d keel over like a giraffe in a lead helmet, and wake up cranky, stupid, hungry, and tired.

jaguar food

So it took a lot of persuading and experimentation for me to discover that I just have to have carbs before practice. And even during practice.

My geeky teammates drink this powdered crap that contains, mostly, sugar water. I thought, me and sugar, bad combination. So I tried eating an apple one bite at a time during practice. Didn’t work. Body said, You can skate, or you can digest, but not at the same time. I almost ralphed it, and the apple just didn’t metabolize fast enough to give me any energy.

Okay. Sugar-water it is.

Coach Jason's breakfast after practice...only he'd add a three-egg omelet.

Since lots of sugar-water for athletes contains corn syrup, which makes me cough, I made my own. OJ would probably work. Coconut milk, cherry selzer, and cherry syrup (made with sugar)–tongue-tingling and yummy, although a bit cloying when warm. Coconut milk and honey–less ralphworthy. Molasses in water, mmmm!

What’s your favorite carb injection during a workout? Or before … or after?


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Are you a jaguar or a gazelle? — 3 Comments

  1. For horses and yoga, no biggies.

    For skiing…definitely carbs before I leave the house. A mix of carbs and protein, actually. Straight protein is too greasy and straight carbs don’t sit right either. Quinoa with almond butter and frozen veggies is the ideal mixture. Tofu is the carb exception. Oatmeal is right out as it sits heavy in the gut. I have to consume enough to fuel me through the hour or so drive to get there, then deal with whatever weather I get when I hit the slopes without freezing, without feeling loaded down. One year I chugged down electrolyte drinks before heading out.

    Afterwards it’s definitely a protein thing. I’ve sat down at the all-you-can-eat Timberline brunch and chowed down on tri-tip, potatoes, veggies, more tri-tip….and no weight gain. But I usually try to get a carb meal in afterwards on the same day, to help recover.

  2. I could stand to lose twenty pounds or so, and am still working on the combination of food/exercise that will achieve this. Short answer: nothing works. However, for cultural reasons I really cannot give up carbs. In Chinese, you greet a stranger by saying, “Have you had rice today?” The implication being that if you haven’t, your day is circling the drain, only to be rescued by a meal featuring rice.

  3. I have tried the lo-carb diets, and the “caveman” diets, the no-red-meat diets, and the pretty much everything else you can think of diets, and each time, I got sick. Not “I don’t feel well,” but actively unhealthy. So finally my doctor – a wise soul – said “when do you feel the best? Follow that.”

    I have to keep everything balanced. Simple and complex carbs. Protein, both lean and otherwise. Fat. Fiber. Veggies and fruits in equal measure to the pasta, and do not avoid the organ meats! A smidge of sugar, and a lot of savory. Just… a little at a time, in regular doses. That’s the only way I maintain both my weight, my energy level, and my overall health.